Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Cassini Provides Stunning New Looks at Several Moons

The Cassini spacecraft recently had a mini ‘grand tour’ of several of Saturn’s moons and just sent back some great images of Helene, Mimas, Enceladus and Dione. Above is an amazing view of the Trojan moon Helene, which is only 32 kilometers (20 miles across) and shares an orbit with Dione. Cassini came withing 28,000 km (17,398 miles) of Helene. Thanks to Stu Atkinson for an enhanced version of this raw Cassini image.
Cassini captured several images of the plumes spewing from Enceladus, and other closeup views of the moon’s terrain.
No images available yet from Cassini’s extremely close flyby of Titan over the weekend where it buzzed the hazy moon at an altitude of just 880 kilometers (547 miles) above the surface.
That is 70 kilometers (43 miles) lower than it has ever been at Titan before. The reason for attempting such a close pass is to try and establish if Titan has a magnetic field of its own. But the Cassini team went through hours and hours of calculations for this close flyby, as Titan’s atmosphere applies torque to objects flying through it, much the same way the flow of air would wiggle your hand around if you stuck it outside a moving car window.

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